The credibility of the International Criminal Court, ICC and its Prosecutor, Louis Moreno-Ocampo could be in disrepute as the ongoing standoff on the indictment of Sudanese President, Omar Al-Bashir continues to cause controversy.
Omar Al-Bashir was indicted by the ICC in March for crimes against humanity and other crimes related to the War in Darfur. But efforts to garner support for the arrest of Mr Bashir is waning.
The ICC prosecutor, Moreno-Occampo who is leading the campaign for Mr Bashir’s arrest has started losing the argument for his case. Occampo’s continued insistence that there is an “ongoing extermination” of civilians in Darfur is not only misleading but causing both African countries and Europe not to take serious, his indictment charges against or an arrest of Mr Al-Bashir.
Last week, Moreno-Ocampo told the UN that the government of Sudan was presiding over the “ongoing extermination of civilians” in Darfur and demanded that parties signatory to the Rome Treaty support efforts to arrest the Sudanese president and his minister, Ahmad Harun.
Moreno-Ocampo’s allegation is not only taken with a pinch of salt but a misleading judgement, argued Sudanese officials and African observers. In fact, the UN says it has only ‘taken note’ of the prosecutor’s report, ignoring his demand for a more proactive action, a big blow to the ICC and the prosecutor’s demand for collaboration to arrest Mr Al-Bashir.
“Ocampo repeated a lot of lies. He talked about continuing genocide. But nothing is happening at the UN. This thing is being buried,” said a Sudanese official.
The AU Peace and Security Commissioner, Ramtane Lamara also presented a different argument describing the crises in Darfur as a “low-grade conflict” and reporting that 130 to 150 people were killed in the region every month, one third of them civilians, contradicting Ocampo’s description of an “ongoing extermination of civilians”.
A complicated matter
Unfortunately for the ICC prosecutor, even the Western governments are cautious of pressing hard on the issue. An European diplomat had wished Mr Ocampo charged senior ministers — like the defence minister — instead of Mr Al-Bashir and even in London, the Foreign Office which has asked Sudan to cooperate fell short of supporting Ocampo’s warrant of arrest.
The United States which is not a signatory to the ICC also has its doubts. US official on Foreign Relations, John Kerry, visiting Darfur recently said the issue is a “complicated matter”. And a former Bush envoy to Sudan, Andrew Natsios accused the ICC man of exaggerating the degree of the problem. “In their zeal to burnish the fledgling court’s credentials with such a high-profile case, the ICC’s prosecutors have weakened the institution,” writes Natsois in a Foreign Affairs Magazine.
In fact, the Sudanese officials are beginning to praise the present Obama government for a good relationship with Khartoum, saying a “new beginning” in the US-Sudan relationship is on course.
Meanwhile, the Sudanese president continues to ignore the ICC ruling and travelling across the Middle East and Africa without any fear of arrest.
Africa is the most heavily represented in the membership of the ICC with 30 member states. Most of the African Union states that are signatory to the international Court are beginning to doubt their status and are considering the option of withdrawing their signature if charges against the Sudanese strongman is not dropped. Libya, Senegal, Djibouti and the Comoros are leading the rebellion and urging member states to join.
While others also fault the ICC ruling, they haven’t settled for withdrawing but say the ICC should defer the warrant by a year while other options are explored.
Former South African president, Thabo Mbeki is already chairing an AU peace committee as an alternative to the ICC ruling and a way of reaching a peaceful platform in Darfur. He will meet with other AU ministers next month at the AU summit in Sirte Libya, on what measures to follow in settling for a final solution on the crises in Sudan.
“The pursuit of peace can be deadly impacted upon if players including a head of state, are denied the fundamental presumption of innocence,” said AU Peace and Security Commissioner Ramtane Lamara.